People allege they are demanding ₹15,000 to ₹20,000 to conduct final rites against the official rate of ₹3,000
With the increase in COVID-19 deaths in the city, private ambulance staff and middlemen are cashing in on the situation. The middlemen have been allegedly charging ₹15,000 to ₹20,000 to conduct the final rites of a person who died of the coronavirus. Family members of the deceased allege that the ambulance staff and the workers at the crematorium at Gnanapuram are working in cahoots.
“I lost my maternal uncle a few days ago in a private hospital at Arilova. We approached an ambulance driver to shift the body to crematorium. He seems to have a link with the hospital and the workers at the crematorium. He has offered a package of ₹20,000 for everything, right from shifting the body to performing rites. As we bargained, he agreed to do it for ₹18,000. He did not even offer a PPE kit,” said B.J. Venkata Mahesh, a resident of Murali Nagar area.
Kin of COVID-19 patients allege that even if they get an ambulance driver, about ₹8,000 to ₹10,000 is being charged at the crematorium. People allege that middlemen taking undue advantage of heavy rush at the crematorium. Every day, at least 60 to 70 bodies are being brought to the Gnanapuram during the second wave. They alleged that workers citing scarcity of wood and diesel to perform the final rites. A large number of people reportedly paying the amount being demanded by middlemen to avoid arguments during the final rites. People seek arrangement of CCTV cameras on the crematorium premises to check the malpractice.
According to a senior official from Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), the corporation has fixed a price of ₹3,000 for all the procedures, including labour, wood, diesel and others, at the crematorium and they have arranged flexis at the premises to inform people about it. “We have also set up a toll-free number 180042500009 to enable people lodge complaints if excess charges are being collected,” the official said.
GVMC Chief Medical and Officer of Health (CMOH) K.S.L.G. Sastry said that in order to reduce pressure on Gnanapuram crematorium, the civic body will be allotting one crematorium in every zone for performing the final rites of COVID victims. “It is the middlemen who are taking advantage of the situation and involved in corruption. In order to create awareness, we have arranged boards at the crematorium. The civic body will be taking steps to put an end to this corruption,” Mr. Sastry said.
He said that sodium hypochlorite solution is being sprayed at the premises and all COVID-19 precautions are being followed.
The GVMC officials are also gearing up to restart the electric crematorium at Chavulamadum and its trial run began on Monday.
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